Jasemin Seven reflects on: Allianz Foundation Next Generations Study 2023

After releasing our Allianz Foundation Next Generations Study: 'The Movers of Tomorrow?' on October 31, we asked Jasemin Seven from the Young Islam Conference to reflect on our findings. Read her blog about the findings in the German context here.

A portrait of Jasemin Seven

Jasmine Seven © Stefanie Loos

“If engagement should provide young people with new skills and the opportunity to continue developing, there must truly be space for decision-making and determination.”
Jasemin Seven, Young Islam Conference

A bold new post-migrant generation? When commitment strengthens the sense of community and also our democracy

 

After releasing the Allianz Foundation Next Generations Study 2023: ‘The Movers of Tomorrow?’ we requested Jasemin Seven, Head of JIK, to reflect on our findings. The Young Islam Conference (JIK) is a platform for exchange and an empowerment space for Islam-related questions and issues of coexistence in a post-migrant society. As a political education program, it is aimed in particular at young adults between the ages of 17 and 27. In the following blog post, Jasemin Seven reflects on what the findings of the Allianz Foundation's Next Generations Engagement Study mean for her work. What can we learn for a post-migrant, anti-racist Germany and Europe from the results of the study on young Europeans' willingness to get socially involved? Jasemin’s main proposition: If engagement should provide young people with new skills and the opportunity to continue developing, there must truly be space for decision-making and determination. It is not only important to work with marginalized people, we also need to get privileged people involved in order to counteract the polarization of society.

Muslim voices are often only registered as background noise in public discourse. They are perceived, but not really heard. As the Young Islam Conference (Junge Islam Konferenz), we consider one of our tasks to make these young people audible and visible in the discourse on social division, social justice and participation. When it comes to the question of what kind of society we want to live in going forward, young people have to be encouraged to get involved, to create distinctions, establish their own narratives, and help shape society and their own future.

The post-migrant generation is boldly moving forward – but what are they concerned with? This is what the Next Generations Study examines closely. The 10,000 respondents in the study were weighted representatively along “age, gender and education,” and the share of young people “with a migration background” was also taken into account. According to the micro-census, around one in three young adults in Germany (1) fall into this category. The network of the Young Islam Conference includes an above-average number of young people with a migration biography. These mostly belong to Generation Z (aged 18 to 26) and are largely first-generation students. In other words, when we discuss future issues, their understanding of justice and their own experiences of discrimination with our network members, their own social standing plays a decisive role.

Our network members’ wish to live in a society in which everyone can participate, has the same rights and opportunities to shape their own future and is free to live out their own dreams. A society in which they are allowed to define themselves and are heard, taken seriously and recognized. Pluralistic German democracy has yet to fulfil this promise of recognition, equal opportunities and participation. This is reflected particularly clearly in the lack of representation for people with migration heritage and other minorities in politics, the media, and other areas of the public sphere.

The Next Generations Study creates a broad data base on young people’s commitment against discrimination. Many young people in Germany stated in the study that they are cautiously optimistic about future developments in equal opportunities and assume that minorities’ quality of life will improve in the next ten years. In our network we also observe young people who confidently demand co-determination, create spaces for themselves free from the expectations of the dominant society, in which they set new impulses and their own topics, and actively help shape an open society by renegotiating the social status quo.

In the study, respondents from Germany state that they are somewhat less likely than their European counterparts to be “very” concerned when thinking about discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or nationality. What is particularly surprising is that the level of concern regarding discrimination on the basis of origin tends to be especially low in the group of respondents with “migration background”. But young people mostly become involved when it comes to issues and topics that concern themselves. Therefore, if the level of concern is low, as demonstrated by the study, then it can be assumed that fewer people are also engaged in these issues. The importance that racism has for all people in our society needs to be made even more visible in order to increase the number of young people engaged with these issues. In addition to violence against racialized people and communities, racism prevents social transformation processes that aim to achieve social justice, making it relevant to society as a whole. 

At this point, we should additionally note the fact that people with a “migration background” by technical definition are not necessarily read as “different, but may well be perceived by the dominant society as white and/or German and correspondingly not experience certain kinds of discrimination. This privilege of “invisibility” is not shared by Muslims and those categorized as Muslim on the basis of racially coded characteristics. These people experience a wide range of social discrimination at a generally high rate. In particular, women wearing head coverings reported “especially drastic forms of hostility” (2). Correspondingly, it is unsurprising that the Next Generations Study also reveals concerns about discrimination and exclusion to be more pronounced among those under 25, women, in large cities, and among the politically left-leaning. Many members in our network are precisely in these categories and have the routine experience of being passed over for a job or an apartment for racist reasons, being discriminated against in everyday school and university settings, or being verbally or physically attacked.

Young people from second or third generations with a higher level of advanced education tend to report more frequent and stronger discrimination than older, educationally disadvantaged first-generation individuals (3). This may be due to the fact that Muslims who grew up or were socialized in Germany have a higher expectation for social participation and are simultaneously more sensitive to discrimination than new immigrants. That is why it is unexpected that despite the respondents’ demographic composition (ages 18-39), the level of concern among respondents “with a migration background” tends to be low.

The study additionally reveals that, compared with the rest of Europe, an average of young adults in Germany have frequently been engaged so far and are often willing to endure physical efforts and openly express their opinions. However, they avoid violence and actions that could involve criminal consequences, loss of jobs, financial risks and loss of personal privacy.

These findings match our real-world experiences. Not all people have the privilege to be able to take on financial risks and face criminal consequences. Especially for vulnerable groups, activist engagement is particularly likely to be tied to negative consequences. This increases the importance of recognizing the engagement of socio-economically disadvantaged young people. This can take the form of acknowleging qualifications and certificates for their CVs, for example.

In conclusion, the Next Generations Study shows that the topics of migration and integration divide society, independent of “age, gender and education”. Regarding cultural and structural participation, this means it is not only important to work with marginalized people, we also need to get privileged people involved in order to counteract the polarization of society. It is important for us to not only be a resource strengthening those personally affected by racist experiences, but also to increasingly focus on allies and recruit them to fight against discrimination.

If engagement should provide young people with new skills and the opportunity to continue developing, there must truly be space for decision-making and determination. That is why committed individuals can participate in academy and mentoring formats at the Young Islam Conference to acquire skills in various technical areas, become panel guests, be listed as a contact for the press, be active in event planning, or in other areas. This is exactly the kind of experience of agency that all young people should be able to have. It strengthens our sense of community, and also our democracy.